26 de marzo de 2008


Located in western Belize, the Cayo District has a wealth of interest and activities for the visitor as well as being the gateway to Guatemala and the incredible ruins of Tikal.
Although the Mountain Pine Ridge is often considered the key attraction of the district, Cayo also encompasses some great Mayan ruins, the frontier-like towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, the border town of Benque Viejo with its Latin influence, and the lush valley between the incredibly picturesque Mopan and Macal rivers.
Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve consists of 800 sq km of beautiful, unspoiled mountain country dotted with rivers, waterfalls and caves and teeming with beautiful flora and fauna. One of the most interesting things about the reserve is that much of it is thick pine forest, one of Belize's more peculiar geological anomalies. With numerous nature trails and impressive destinations, Mountain Pine Ridge is the ideal place for hiking and horseback riding, while the many rivers that run through it are great for kayaking and canoeing. Above all, the reserve is a wonderful place to contemplate nature and view birds and other wildlife, as well as its many incredible natural wonders.
The highest waterfall in the reserve, and in fact in all of Central America, is the Hidden Valley Falls, a silver cascade which plunges almost 500 metres into a misty valley. Not to far away is Butterfly Falls, where such rare birds as the toucan, orange-breasted falcon and king vulture can be seen. Big Rock Falls and Five Sisters Falls are located a short distance from each other. Five Sisters is actually five smaller waterfalls which cascade into a large pool, an ideal place for a refreshing swim. You can also swim at Big Rock falls, which is more off the beaten path.
Rio Frio Cave, one of the most impressive river caves in Belize, is located just a short walk from the Mountain Pine Ridge's entrance. After you enter the cave's 65 foot arched entryway, you can see numerous pools and falls and large stalactites which hang all through the quarter-mile long cave. On the other side is a nature trail which leads to another cave, Cuevas Gemelas. Also close to the cave are the Rio On Pools, consisting of a number of small waterfalls and pools, another good place for swimming.
The rough roads in the reserve are often impassable during the wet season, and still not easily passable in the dry season. However, inaccessibility helps keep this beautiful land unspoilt and natural for visitors willing to see it on horseback, by foot or kayak and canoe.

Barton Creek Cave where you can take a canoe with spot-lights through this cave used by the Mayas

Belize Botanic Gardens with around 300 tree species, close to DuPlooy's Jungle Lodge

Butterfly Breeding Center for blue morpho, at Chaa Creek

Cahal Pech Mayan ruin, close to San Ignacio Hotel

Caracol Mayan ruin with tallest man-made pyramid in country

Chechem Ha Cave, which harboured Mayan pottery, reached by tough 30 minute climb

Hidden Valley Falls, Clarissa Falls and Five Sister Falls

El Pilar Mayan ruins, 12 miles north of San Ignacio

Pacbitun Mayan ruins, in San Ignacio Village, by foot or by horse

Xunantunich Mayan ruins, near Guatemala border, reached by simple ferry

Yalbac Mayan site in the Yalbac Hills, northeast of San Ignacio, reached by hiking

Green Hills Butterfly House and Botanical Collection on mile 8 of Mountain Pine Ridge Road

Flour Camp Cave, with Maya pottery, stone tools, burial chambers, and stalactites. (You need to be fit for this)

Rio Frio Cave, with attractive half-mile cave, large boulders and stalactites (see above)

Rainforest Medicinal Trail

Rio On Pools for swimming (see above)

Spanish Lookout area of Mennonite settlements, on turnoff from Western Highway just west of Belmopan

Waterhole Cavern (Bat Cave) for 45 minute hike to cavern opening, then impressive cave with lake and colossal formations. (You need to be fit for this).

Horseriding through the area, waterfalls, jungle trails, remote areas

Mountain biking

White water rafting on upper Macal River, and perhaps Vaca Falls

Tanah Mayan Art Museum in San Ignacio Village, run by Garcia sisters, with Mayan artifacts and carvings

Chiquibul Forest Reserve in the south, with scarlet macaws, keel-billed motmots, tapirs and wild pigs, Las Cuevas cave system and Puente Natural (natural bridge over a mountain). Need permit and a guide is recommended.

Visitor Info

The Cayo district, and particularly the Mountain Pine Ridge, is one of the jewels of Belize, a vast rugged forest in the low mountains. It is a great base for spending a minimum of 3 nights, and up to 10 days, exploring the many attractions of Mountain Ridge Reserve and the surrounding area of San Ignacio, Benque Viejo. There is a range of great lodges in the area, catering for all tastes and interests, each with its own personality, and most in attractive locations. Although you can rely on transfers and transport provided by the lodge, for greatest mobility and flexibility we recommend a rental car. This should be a 4WD as all the roads in the Mountain Pine Reserve are dirt.
Mountain Pine Ridge or the San Ignacio area is a popular base for a drive or day trip across the border to Tikal, just 80 miles (130 kms) to the west of the border by Flores.getting thereThe 60 mile drive west from Belize City along the Western Highway to Georgeville takes around 1 1/2 hours. There you turn south onto the dirt road into Mountain Pine Ridge. If you carried on the Western Highway, San Ignacio is a further 10 miles (ie 70 miles from Belize City). There are no regular domestic flights with Tropic Air and Maya Airways, but charters can be arranged.

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